The Los Angeles Clippers are in San Francisco to play consecutive games against the Warriors, and the timing could not be more significant.
After impressive performances in back-to-back games, the Warriors (4-3) believe they finally are making progress. The Clippers (5-3), a championship contender, have the goods to test that belief when the teams meet Wednesday night at Chase Center.
The Warriors are coming off successive wins in which Stephen Curry excelled (a combined 92 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists) and the defense was vastly improved from the first seven games.
Aside from a 124-73 loss to Dallas 10 days ago, LA has either won or been close in every game.
The Clippers are slight favorites despite the possibility of being without star shooting guard Paul George, who is listed as questionable with right ankle soreness. Also, LA is on the second night of a back-to-back set.
The teams meet again on Friday.
Here are three keys to a Warriors victory:
Own the arc
The Warriors drained a season-high 23 3-pointers in the win over Sacramento on Monday. They also shot a season-high 53.5 percent from deep, raising their percentage this season to 35.2, still only 21st in the NBA.
They don’t have to repeat that level against LA, but they’ll need to be really good to win this category.
That’s because Clippers are off to a fabulous start, draining 41.9 percent of those shots from beyond the arc, ranking behind only the Milwaukee Bucks. Pesky guard Patrick Beverley has been the surprise, shooting 52.9 percent (18-of-34). George is at 49.2 and Nicolas Batum at 44.8.
If the Warriors can gain the edge here, whether through offense or defense, it should be a huge factor.
Crash the glass
After being clobbered on the glass in their first five games, the Warriors clearly have addressed the issue. They outrebounded Portland and grabbed only two fewer than Sacramento.
They should aim to be plus-10 in this category against the Clippers, who rank 28th in total rebounding. New acquisitions Serge Ibaka and Batum, each averaging 6.1 per game share the team lead.
If James Wiseman, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr., Eric Paschall and Kevon Looney can win this war, it would go a long way toward success.
Oubre continues to find offense
More and more, Oubre is looking capable of being the team’s third scorer, behind Curry and Wiggins. He’ll have a chance to shine against the Clippers.
If George is active, he’ll be assigned to Oubre, whose non-stop energy would pose issues for someone with a tender ankle. If George is not active, the job likely goes to Luke Kennard, an inferior defender.
Averaging 10.9 points per game, fourth behind Curry and Wiggins and Wiseman, Oubre has hit double figures in his last four games, with season-highs in each of the last two. After a wretched start, he seems to be finding the form that last season provided 18.7 points per game.